The Phillies and Cards faced each other 9 times this season, and Saint Louis actually won six of those nine matchups, yet still find themselves underdogs in this series. That should be a red flag to value bettors who will find the Cardinals an attractive value at 5/2 odds.
Game One Odds: STL (19/10), PHI (10/23)
Odds to win WS: STL (12/1), PHI (9/5)
Odds to win NL: STL (6/1), PHI (2/3)
Series Odds: STL (5/2), PHI (1/3)
The Phillies finished the 2011 season with a .253 team BA, which ranked them 9th among NL teams, while they clubbed 153 homers, ranking them 8th. The Phillies had a similar average (.255) the year they won the title, yet the homers and RBI totals are lower. It is a little deceiving considering the Phillies had injury problems this season, with Utley, Victorino, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins all missing time. If Philadelphia is to win this series, they must come together and hit as they are accustomed to.
The Phillies will trot out staff ace Roy Halladay in Game 1. Halladay finished the year with an impressive 19-6 record and an outstnading 2.35 ERA. Halladay will play a big role in game one, but after that the Phillies send Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt out, all strong pitchers in their own right. They put together a 3.02 ERA this season, making the Phillies a favorite nearly every night, as their above average offense provided more than ample run support for such a staff. The Phillies are the number 1 ranked defense in the majors and are great at turning DPs. It will prove problematic for the Cards, as it quickly removes offensive momentum — if the Cards build any at all against the tough Phillies staff.
But it’s not like the Cards don’t have any pitchers. They will send Kyle Lohse to the mound in game one, while Edwin Jackson and Jake Westbrook are sure to bring a lot of fire to the mound as well. The Cards had a collective ERA of 3.77 this season, which is pretty impressive until you compare it to the Phillies’ staff. The problem for the Cards is that their team defense leaves a lot to be desired, as they ranked 24th in the league. Rafael Furcal must come back from his hamstring injury and Matt Holliday is unlikely for game 1. That won’t help.
The home field advantage could end up playing the biggest role in this series. The Phillies are awesome at Citizen’s Bank Park, and in the playoffs, they are even better at home. The balance between pitcher and hitter friendliness at Citizen’s will help the Phillies, too.
It’s hard to favor the Cards for all the reasons mentioned in this preview, but they make an attractive value bet if you consider their 6 wins in 9 attempts vs Philly this year. The Phillies, however, will turn it up for the playoffs and the Cards powerful offense may not be enough against the best pitching staff in the league. This series, still, will likely go the distance, but a small speculative bet on the Cards isn’t an unreasonable proposition given their regular season dominance.